Video: ‘Ear-piercing’ fire alarms are driving people away from Shambles say traders

Shambles, York. Photograph: YorkMix
13 Aug 2019 @ 8.01 pm
| News, Politics

‘Ear-piercing’ fire alarms are frightening visitors to Shambles and costing them money as customers hurry away from the street.

So say traders, after a series of noisy false alarms.

Businesses have had to evacuate their premises four times this week and the ‘incredibly loud’ sirens have sent shoppers and diners scrambling to get away.

But the new fire alarms installed on the street were praised as a success at a City of York Council meeting.

The council says the fire alarms were “genuinely activated” when they went off on Monday afternoon and that they always review callouts.

Four fire engines

The fire alarms were set off at around 5.55pm – just after a council meeting heard that the system has been “one of the biggest positives” of the health and safety programme.

The council owns 70 per cent of properties in Shambles and installed the new fire alarm system in their buildings earlier this year.

York Retail Forum’s Phil Pinder, who runs The Potions Cauldron on the street, said the alarms were going off for more than 30 minutes on Monday, driving away customers from shops and restaurants – but a council spokesman said the response time was 21 minutes.

Less that 24 hours later the alarms went off again and Mr Pinder said four fire engines were called to the street.

Lost money

Phil Pinder in the Potions Cauldron
Phil said the new fire alert system had made things worse:

  • It’s incredibly loud, they have put an alarm in every single room including the toilet. It’s absolutely ear piercing.

    It went off while the street was heaving so people panic. I had a room full of people – I lost money as a result.

    We are more than happy to take responsibility and be trained as fire marshals by the fire brigade. But we were told it’s not safe for health and safety reasons. We even said we would pay for the training as that would be for the benefit of the street.

    We are getting just as many false alarms as before. The previous fire alarm was a great little system and it wasn’t too loud.

Nick Collins, head of commercial assets at the council, said: “The fire alarm at the Shambles had a genuine activation yesterday.

“Whilst the activation was not caused by any faults within the system, we apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused. Key holders for the alarm are located in York and responded to the activation appropriately.

“We always conduct a review of the causes of the alarm activation and take action where required, in partnership with the occupiers of Shambles.”